Bistango Martini Lounge owner Reema Shaver knows one of the keys to having a bar that withstands the test of time is knowing who you are as a business.
"If you're going to be a speakeasy, be a speakeasy; if you're gonna be a tiki bar, be a tiki bar," Shaver says.
Rather than follow trends as they come and go, she's made sure that Bistango sticks with its roots in martinis. You'll find much more than just vodka or gin, however, as the drink menu, massive from day one, has only grown since opening in 2005.
"I'm a martini lounge. You want a martini? I'll give you a martini," Shaver says. "But if your husband doesn't want a martini, I've got a great Old Fashioned or Manhattan for him as well, and I always have."
As a cook, not a bartender, Shaver says she spent months researching and coming up with the cocktails on her menu before opening.
"It was a very popular six months for my friends, because they got to sample a lot of drinks," she says with a laugh.
Creativity with flavor combinations led her to create drinks like the Salsa, which features vodka, house lemon mix, lime juice, muddled limes, cilantro and jalapenos.
"People laughed at me at the time, like, 'Oh my gosh, cilantro in a drink?' and I'm like, 'Well, you put mint in a mojito, why can't you [use] cilantro?'" Shaver says. "It's our third most popular drink now."
First and second most popular are the Huckleberry Reem's Drop and their mojito. The Reem's Drop comes in several flavors, including classic lemon, and strawberry, which is made with a real fruit puree. Rather than a simple sugar coating, the drop glasses have sugar torched to the rim, creating a warm caramel, marshmallow-y flavor with each sip without the crunch of raw sugar.
"It makes us different from the next person that serves lemon drops, which is everybody," she says.
While Bistango's atmosphere is elegant, with a ceiling that mimics a twinkling starlit night, Shaver says more people have realized over the years that they don't need to dress up to go, whether visiting after work, stopping in for a bite on their way to a movie, or just enjoying their evening.
"It's OK to come as you are and just have fun," she says. ♦
For more great cocktails, also try: Peacock Room, Sapphire Lounge, Rain Lounge, Hogwash Whiskey Den, 315 Martinis & Tapas (Coeur d'Alene), Durkin's Liquor Bar, Bon Bon, the Volstead Act